Ken Buck’s Abortion Stance Cost Him a Senate Seat

Any candidate who is on the wrong side of more than 70 percent of Colorado voters has a problem.

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LAKEWOOD, Colo.--Two numbers from Colorado's midterm elections: 71 percent and 17 percent. Seventy-one is the percentage by which the anti-choice Amendment 62 lost statewide. The 17 percent is the gender gap favoring Democrat Michael Bennet in the Senate race, according to exit polls from the New York Times.

[See where Bennet gets his campaign money.]

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Colorado is a pro-choice state, and though it's counter-intuitive to inside-the-beltway wisdom, being anti-choice in Colorado is a political liability.

Just ask Ken Buck. 

Buck lost the Senate race to Democrat Michael Bennet in national Republican surge year, and all signs point to Buck's extreme positions on choice and reproductive rights having a lot to do with it. Even the head of the right-wing group FreedomWorks attributes Buck's loss to social issues.

Buck opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, and he supported both Amendment 62 in 2010 and its predecessor, Amendment 48, in 2008 (which failed by the same huge margins statewide). Both these amendments would have given full legal rights to fertilized eggs under the Colorado constitution, banning abortion in all cases, even for victims of rape or incest, banning emergency contraception, even for victims of rape or incest, and banning many forms of birth control. 

Any candidate--Republican or Democrat--who is publicly and vocally on the wrong side of more than 70 percent of Colorado voters has a problem.

Once Buck figured out that his anti-choice positions were costing him votes, he tried to backpedal--or Buckpedal--in Colorado parlance. That didn't work either and if anything just drew more attention to the problem. The proponents of Amendment 62 held a press conference denouncing his flip-flop. (Full disclosure: I was a consultant on the "No on 62" campaign.) He was pounded on the issue in daily press coverage, in debates, in advertisements, and even got asked about it on Meet the Press.

In the end, Buck lost the same suburban Denver counties--Arapahoe and Jefferson--to Michael Bennet in the general that he lost to Jane Norton in the primary. Amendment 62 lost in these same suburban Denver counties by huge numbers--in Arapahoe 72 to 28 percent and in Jefferson 74 to 26 percent.

Clearly, voters in those counties--especially women voters--do not like extreme positions on social issues. According to a prescient September 15 Denver Post article “Suburbs hold Key to Buck’s Chances.” these voters “can be easily spooked by extreme social conservatism.”

Furthermore, "… suburban women are the most important subgroup of all," said Lori Weigel, a pollster for Public Opinion Strategies.

That certainly turned out to be the case in Colorado. According to the Greeley Tribune, "Women and those who consider themselves moderates helped Bennet pull out the win."

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